The news this week out of the White House is that President Obama is planning to pitch a budget to Congress that promises to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term (see here). Today the president meets with 130 advisors as part of a “Fiscal Responsibility” summit, the fruits of which he loudly and publicly predicts will help to offset the unprecedented spending his stimulus represents. This all sounds wonderful on paper, but the facts tell a different story that should greatly concern conservatives.
First, the budget proposal the White House will sell in a televised address to Congress tomorrow will offer substantial cuts in defense spending. It remains to be seen how much of these cuts are a natural result of the winding down of hostilities in Iraq that occurred during the last year of the Bush administration and how much will be additional cuts that accelerate the draw-down in that country beyond what the current consensus deems appropriate. There may also be substantial cuts in other areas that aren’t directly related to the American presence in Iraq. If true, I would hope these latter cuts are judicious and minute, particularly as the president has announced his intention to deploy an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan in an escalation of that conflict. But I will reserve judgment until the full facts are disclosed on Tuesday.
What is of greater concern to me at the moment is that the White House plans to meet its deficit reduction goal by allowing the Bush tax cuts to lapse on January 1, 2011. We have been speaking out ardently regarding this ill-advised decision, which until Saturday had not been publicly and firmly backed by the president, for quite some time (see here, here, here and here). I won’t belabor points previously made, but will simply say that raising taxes on engines of job creation during a recession is a terrible, terrible idea. But even more worrisome is that it has not yet been specified which Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire. Will it be only for those earning above the $250K that he targeted during his campaign, or will the cut-off be lowered? Regardless, it bodes poorly for the private sector and will assuredly lead to a further market plunge, as investor confidence has plummeted repeatedly in response to Obama’s economic policy announcements.
Finally, the “Fiscal Responsibility” summit is by far and away one of the most offensive farces the president has marched out since taking office. Following the irresponsible spending orgy that his stimulus package represents, he now finds himself tagged as a typical “tax and spend” Democrat. Needing to burnish his fiscal street-cred, he is holding this summit purely for show. His proposed budget is already in the can, as he’s scheduled to bring it before Congress tomorrow, so the gathering will clearly have no effect on it. What further undermines the legitimacy of the summit is the invitation list, which includes union members and advocacy groups, which at least to this conservative are the recipients of some of the most wasteful spending in government.
The president continues to disappoint conservatives and is intent to pursue the standard Democrat policy of cutting defense and raising taxes. Just the most recent demonstration in a long line that prove the president offers nothing new and certainly no hope, just “more of the same,” as he might put it. Unfortunately entitlement spending, which is wildly out of control, will remain at record levels, especially after the increases in the stimulus. If universal healthcare is to become a reality, as the president promises, it may well swallow up whatever gains are made by the budget cuts he proposes tomorrow. I’m not seeing any fiscal responsibility or clear vision by the president. His policies thusfar have shown him to be a political operative more loyal to his party than the prosperity of his country. His talk of bipartisanship has been smoke and mirrors, mere political cover for what turned out to be a purely partisan stimulus package. And now he has the audacity to assemble a “Fiscal Responsibility” summit that is simply window dressing. As disgraced former Democratic Congressman James Trafficant was fond of saying, “Beam me up.”